This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Deer Hunter

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: The Deer Hunter

Kris Jenson, with whom I've had the best discussions of my life, is an old friend of mine from Boston. We had been talking about the American Film Institute's Top 100 when he got a job at Dig Boston, writing about just that. Instead of letting the conversation end just because he's a big, fancy writer now, I'm going to write responses to his articles. I can't keep up with his movie watching, so I'm only responding to the ones I've seen.

This movie probably illustrates the biggest divide between how Kris and I watch movies. As you can probably tell from Kris's writing, he cares deeply about a lot of very important issues. When I say care, I mean more than your average person on Facebook who posts a relevant status and feels like he's made a difference. Kris takes the time to research and learn about the causes about which he cares. The perspective that comes from all that seeps into his love of movies, especially those that were made specifically to make the public at large think about big issues, like the effect war has on the soldiers. For me, though, a film is a story first, and its issues and themes a distant second. That is why I think "The Deer Hunter" is one of the most boringest movies ever.

Okay, hopefully that got you to click on the "Keep Reading" dealy and get to the meat of this thing.

This movie suffers greatly from wanting so badly to be "The Godfather." Only Michael Cimino would look at "The Godfather's" grand opening wedding scene and think, "Man, you know what would make this giant exposition scene ever better? Making it much, much longer and more boring. Yeah, totes. Let's do that." Made six years after Coppola's classic and four years after its sequel, Cimino clearly had the Corleones in mind when he made this movie. The first two "Godfather" movies are so masterfully crafted that they defy any specific criticism. "The Deer Hunter" is a shallow emulation that is very much susceptible to the following:

The Wedding Scene: Like I said, trying to be like Connie Corleone's wedding, but doing it by making it longer and less intresting.

The Length Overall: This movie, like a lot of war movies, could have been at least an hour shorter. I spent most of the movie wondering why the hell I was watching it. It's really not until the Russian Roulette scene that the threads start coming together. It's one thing to build up a plot. It's another thing for a plot to plod. "The Godfather" was also slow, long, and episodic, but each episode has a lot of innate tension that steadily builds toward the conclusion. The viewer often finds "The Godfather" boring yet never wonders why he's watching.

De Niro Does Not a Great Movie Make: Oh hey, "Godfather 2" had De Niro. We should have De Niro. Everyone loves De Niro. His presence is an odd balance, though. I think his talent was totally wasted here, but I also think no one else could have pulled off this role. On the AFI list alone, De Niro plays some of the most memorable and classic film roles of the '70s, maybe even all time: Young Vito Corelone, Jake LaMotta, and Travis Bickle. In "Deer Hunter," he's just a guy, a guy who does nothing special for about 2 hours, then does something heroic. It's like hiring Michelangelo to paint a landscape, sure it will be amazing, but Titian could have pulled it off.

I could go on, but I saw this movie a long time ago, so I won't. I will take the rest of this to discuss John Cazale. No wait, I'm going to write a supporting actors entry about him. Yeah, that's a much better idea. I'll do that.

So yeah, didn't really like "The Deer Hunter."

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